Industry shows and networking events… they’re an interesting concept and now come in many shapes and sizes. I have been lucky enough to attend quite a few this year, and to tell you the truth their diversity has been a real eye opener.
Having spent most of my career working in venues I wasn’t sure these shows had the ROI needed to make the expense worthwhile. Since jumping the venue ship and floating along in the buyer world, my opinion really is changing. Saying that though some ‘shows’ are much more worthwhile than others, so I am going to share my experience and let you know which shows top my list!
Take the M&IT Agency Challenge for example, I was lucky enough to attend this year’s event at the beautiful Celtic Manor Resort in Wales. Not really knowing what to expect and it seemingly sounding all too good to be true I toddled off to Wales, as a buyer my train fare and time were my only expense, for the next few days. On arrival I soon realised this was a networking and educational event like no other where building relationships was at the forefront of the agenda. The thought of a couple of days of constant networking filled me with dread to be honest but the M&IT team got it just right with a mix of friendly competition, business networking, supplier presentations and alcohol (!) to keep delegates engaged and interested. I have to say the relationships I developed over these couple of days were some of the best I have made from a business point of view and a thousand times more valuable than a rushed conversation in a busy exhibition hall. Overall, a hugely worthwhile experience!
Having said that some of the more traditional shows I have graced with my presence this year have also pleasantly surprised me. The shows in which you must validate yourself as a bona fide buyer are much worthier of my time than some of the larger shows (I won’t any mention names….) that any Tom, Dick or Harry can attend, which I have no doubt is the same for venues and suppliers too. Shows like the BNC Show, and London Christmas Party Show fall into the former category, with on topic seminars and talks from industry professionals and valuable suppliers. Both shows were compact enough to get around everyone I wanted to see in a timely manner, and whilst the relationship developed doesn’t compare to those from M&IT I still came away from both shows with some really useful information, contacts and a very healthy step count!! (note to self; heels are not a good idea!) Not to mention the free mini manicure and Benefit mascara (thanks BNC!). I guess that’s an entirely different subject… the Freebie!
I don’t know why but the vibe at these two shows was just so much more engaging than that of the Meetings Show in which I found myself aimlessly wandering around a stiflingly hot Olympia; it didn’t help it was in the middle of this amazing heatwave we are having! I guess time will tell if my new-found enthusiasm for trade shows and networking events continue after I’ve attended the not to be named larger contender that’s just around the corner!
My advice to buyers would be to plan, plan plan! Pick the shows you are going to attend by looking at the format and type of suppliers ‘exhibiting’ and deciding what’s going to be most relevant to you; and always plan your day so you can be efficient with your time when attending. Not forgetting you suppliers; as someone that’s attended shows from both sides I would recommend you only exhibit at shows that validate attendees (ones that do it properly!) and put on an engaging event. Happy networking!